RDC enrolment flat, lack of new programs blamed for slow growth

Enrolment at Red Deer College has stayed the course. Roughly 6,500 students, of which close to 3,400 are in their first year, have signed up for full-time or part-time programs.

Instructor Fred Cardwell goes over the lecture and lab schedule with legal assistant students on their first day of classes in Red Deer College’s Donald School of Business Wednesday.

Instructor Fred Cardwell goes over the lecture and lab schedule with legal assistant students on their first day of classes in Red Deer College’s Donald School of Business Wednesday.

Enrolment at Red Deer College has stayed the course.

Roughly 6,500 students, of which close to 3,400 are in their first year, have signed up for full-time or part-time programs.

These early projections mirror September 2010.

“We have been flat over the last couple years simply because of our inability to launch new programs due to budget constraints the Alberta government has had to deal with,” said RDC president Joel Ward on Wednesday. “Enrolment growth comes with new programs and we need new programs to continue to grow this institution. We have capacity and we want to continue to grow and fill this institution.”

Ward said the college is working hard with its government partners to find the money to add programs.

Ward is looking to a future with new degree opportunities and pointed to the ability of the new location of the Donald School of Business to boost enrolment.

Four years in the making, the Donald School of Business opened in its new campus on three floors of the Millennium Centre in downtown Red Deer last week.

“We think that another 1,000 to 3,000 students in the next four years will be on this (main) campus,” he said. “Having the space created by the Donald School of Business will make that happen for us.”

Recently, the college received funding for two new technology programs but officials were asked to wait for an announcement from the provincial government.

And later this fall, RDC is expected to announce a new four-year business degree in Red Deer.

During last Friday’s student orientation at the downtown campus, Ward surveyed the 550 first- and second-year students. More than half said they would remain in Red Deer to work if a four-year business degree was offered through the college.

“So that means no longer will students have to leave after two years to get their business degree at another institution . . . and be available to work in Red Deer and Hanna and Stettler and other communities,” he said. “Following that we hope to have many more degree announcement opportunities for students to complete their degrees right here at Red Deer College. That’s where the growth is here at this institution.”

The college offers 75 programs with 13 continuing education programs added to the mix this year. Between 7,500 and 8,000 students are expected to study at Red Deer College over the 2011-12 school year.

The official opening of the Donald School of Business downtown campus is Sept. 23.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com